In one of the biggest trades on the opening day of free agency, the Seahawks acquired Jimmy Graham for starting center Max Unger and Seattle's first-round draft pick this year, the 31st overall pick. The Seahawks also get a fourth-round pick in 2015 from the New Orleans Saints.
When he arrives, Graham might want to jokingly introduce himself to Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin.
The two players had an altercation on CenturyLink Field before an NFC divisional-round playoff game on Jan. 11, 2014. Irvin said Graham was warming up on Seattle's side of the field when he asked him to move.
Graham refused, knocking off Irvin’s knit cap and screaming, “I’m Jimmy.” Irvin responded by saying: “Who’s Jimmy? I don’t know any Jimmy.”
The Seahawks won the game 23-15 and Graham had only one catch for 8 yards.
“That’s because he’s overrated," Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett told Fox13 Seattle after the game. “He doesn’t help in the blocking game. I think he’s overrated and I’m not scared to say that on TV, either.”
Well, time to let bygones be bygones. I’m guessing both Bennett and Irvin will welcome Graham with open arms. Maybe they can do a little video with Graham between them and both Bennett and Irvin saying, “This is Jimmy!”
Graham (6-foot-7, 265 pounds) is the offensive weapon the Seattle offense has been missing, a big-play tight end who often lines up as a wide receiver. Graham is an offensive juggernaut as a receiver who can beat defenders deep and make the tough catches in traffic.
Despite dealing with a shoulder injury for most of the 2014 season, Graham had 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 TDs and was voted to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his five-year NFL career.
He will immediately make Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense better in the passing game. This move gives Wilson a No. 1 receiver for the first time in his career.
Bennett is right about one thing. Graham is not a good blocker, and a blocking tight end is a big deal for a team that runs the ball with Marshawn Lynch. But the Seahawks are not bringing Graham here to block. They are bringing him to Seattle to give the offense a dimension it didn’t have without him.
They paid a significant price to get him in sending Unger to the Saints. Unger has been a mainstay in the middle of the offensive line, making the right calls and often stabilizing a unit that has struggled at times in pass-blocking.
But the Seahawks learned last season they can win without Unger. He played in only six regular-season games because of knee and ankle injuries. The Seahawks went 6-0 down the stretch without Unger on the field.
The Seahawks are high on center Patrick Lewis, who started four games while Unger was out. With left guard James Carpenter signing with the New York Jets, clearly the Seahawks have some decisions to make on the offensive line.
As for losing the first-round pick, the Seahawks probably would have traded down anyway, which has become standard operating procedure for an organization that covets extra picks.
The Seahawks inherited a four-year, $40 million contract with Graham, which pays him $10 million in 2015. But Unger had a base salary of $4.5 million this season, so Graham’s hit isn’t as big as it looks.
Whatever the price of the trade, it’s worth it. Graham is the missing piece the Seattle offense needed.
Don’t believe it? For those 12s still mourning the fateful moment of Super Bowl XLIX, consider this little tidbit from ESPN Stats & Information:
Graham has been thrown to nine times on plays that started at the opposing team’s 1-yard line. Eight of those throws were caught by Graham for touchdowns.
Who’s Jimmy? He’s the difference-maker for the Seahawks.